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NHCS clarifies College Park Elementary students were displaced by leaking pepper spray device

College Park Elementary School.
New Hanover County Schools
College Park Elementary School.

The principal initially wrote to parents, telling them students had reported an “odor that caused them discomfort.” The district later discovered the cause of that discomfort had been pepper spray.

On Wednesday, November 16, a container of pepper spray inside a student’s backpack leaked during the morning instruction period in a classroom at College Park Elementary School.

Principal Debbie Calvert wrote parents, notifying them that “several students reported an odor that caused them discomfort (coughing, itchy eyes, etc.)” and that students had been relocated and given access to a nurse as needed.

Some parents took issue with Calvert’s lack of specificity, especially after some developed secondary exposure reactions to what later turned out to have been pepper spray,

The district said Calvert was likely unaware of the specific cause when she wrote her letter to parents, but couldn't confirm if she had followed up, or was planning on doing so.

A district spokesperson noted that “the classroom has since been sanitized and cleaned thoroughly, and the students have safely returned to the room.”